[hist-analytic] "The cat is on the mat" -- and other phrastics

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sun Feb 8 17:10:27 EST 2009

What the phrastic is about
Some comments on S. R. Bayne's excellent recent post on the a/s  distinction, 
bearing such weighty questions such as "Is a thought part of  reality?", "Do 
facts exist?", "Does logic have a subject-matter", and more!  Surely mandatory 
reading (if that's not too bad) for the serious historian of  analytic 
philosophy, or at least mandatory questions he should feel mandated to  provide an 
answer for (even "Dunno!"). 
The cat is on the mat. 
!(O, that the cat be on the mat)
What is it that the 'sentence' refers to; why did the Cat On The Mat  matter, 
to echo Hacking, to philosophy? Or did it not?
In a message dated 2/8/2009 baynesrb at yahoo.com writes: (I'm trying to fit  to 
a "In-Reply-To" mailer'; meanwhile, I can guess this post will not be viewed  
as developing S. R. Baynes's thread -- sorry about that)

S. R. Bayne  starts by citing from Aune (post to hist-analytic):
>>Quine thought that, for philosophical purpose[s], 
>>a conception of analytic truth as truth by virtue of 
>>meaning was too vague to be taken seriously.

Bayne comments:

>If we reject the idea of truth in virtue of meaning, we might ask: 
>"Truth, then, in virtue of what?" Powerful arguments (Davidson) 
>have been adduced for being suspicious of facts, but 
>if not facts what? Suppose we take a pragmatist view 
>a fact is what makes a theory _work_. Few, if any, pragmatists  
>would accept this simplistic formulation, but despairing 
>of his loss of facts, the philosopher will care to consider
>what distinguishes 
>         I ate my breakfast  before my dinner.
>        I laughed at  6:00am.
>where their contradictories are 
>'false.' The pragmatist answer  would be what? So truth 
>in virtue of meaning is one way of viewing analyticity, 
>it is NOT what Kant had in mind, and I think 
>Kant understood  the role of the a/s distinction better 
>than Quine, as evidenced by the use he made of 
>synthetic a priori, a category of _propositions_. 

A second passage from Aune that Bayne quotes he prefaces:
>Elsewhere Aune has indicated that as for what makes the a/s important  we 
>can say this:

The passage being one making a reference, 
>>[t]o show the error of a wide range of claims by 
>>epistemological rationalists.
Bayne comments: 

>I remain skeptical about the a/s distinction.
>Central to the  issue is whether there are facts; 
>if there are no facts 
>then the truths of algebra and the truths of physics 
>are truths in the same sense of 'truth' differing only 
>in some other property requiring the introduction of 
>meaning,  perhaps. 
>My, immediate, concern is the place of probability in  
>philosophy of science. If we look at the mathematical 
>theory of probability, then 
>I think we can establish a pretty clean connection between the  propositions 
>of science and two-valued logic. But if 
>there is no way of making this connection, 
>"truth," in science  may best be regarded outside 
>the semantic web the Tarskians have weaved. 
>This, I think, was pretty much Reichenbach's view 
>and I am  inclined to share it. 
>What makes an analytic proposition true? 
>We don't want to say that it is analytic because 
>it has such and such resistance to 
>revision, etc. and then go  on to say that it 
>resists revision because it is analytic. 
>If there are no logical 'facts' then 
>the truths of logic are expressed as propositions 
>which are 'formal' truths lacking factual content. 
>This in some quarters is orthodoxy. 
I'm reminded 'heterodoxy' is other people's doxies. 
>If there is no 'factual'/'formal' divide then 
>there is, ultimately, no distinction between 
>the truths of  science and the truths of mathematics. 
>I find this unacceptable, but only because 
>I don't regard the distinction as epistemological; 
>nor do I believe that
>the most productive consequences of such a 
>distinction are of interest to a belief 
>that a conceptual  framework is linguistic.
>The subject matter of science is the world;
>the subject matter  of logic is not; 
>logic lacks a subject matter. 
>This is by no means obvious or clear. 
Especially to students! I was browising the other day Steven Yablo's  webpage 
(he is at MIT) and I think, as typically other philosophers say this in  
their webpages, that they have been involved in teaching logic, which I think  
they call "Minor League" or "Lower Divisions" -- versus, say, "metaphysics",  
which is, but Danny Frederick who taught _both_ logic and metaphysics will  
disagree, is high, higher oh so higher divisions!
I must say I hate that attitude.
I wonder what I would have thought as a mediaeval schooler in the trivium  
(grammatica, dialectica, rhetorica). Indeed, a London professor was so intrigued 
 by this that he wrote a book on Mediaeval Logic called, "Barbara Celarent".  
Which I think sums up well what a mediaeval student of logic would remember 
from  his trivial classes!
With Aristotle is even worse! "Logica" was not really part of the trivium,  
since I believe the trivium was a _Latin_ or Roman thing. I don't think I 
recall  reading a Plato dialogue (and these should epitomise what philosophy for 
the  Greeks were) that makes the round _around_ a logical notion: it's always 
about  virtue, or beauty, or the law, or love, or justice, or ... -- but hardly 
about  Philonian material conditionals!
So I applaud Bayne's comment, "Logic lacks a subject-matter".

Bayne continues:
>Is a thought a part of the world? 
>Does ontology go beyond 
>and the void"? 
>These unresolved issues figure into all this and 
>I don't have an opinion I would "go to the mats" to decide. 

Talking of mats, I was amusingly reminded of a lecture I once gave on Mill  
and Mentalism (students hated me for that). My example was, of course, "The cat 
 is on the mat". And I used a photocopy of the _drawing_ that S. E. Toulmin 
has  in his _The Uses of Arguments_. I loved that drawing because it went, as 
it  were, 'to the mats', as to what _facts_ are!
Later I learned 'the cat is on the mat' is an anglo thing to learn to  _read_ 
(it rhymes). 
I particularly loved to _symbolise_ "The cat is on the mat" since it makes  
use of 'iota' operator, and it makes a reference to a substantial (Cat No. 1, 
in  Eddington's parlance), a predicate, "to be on the mat", etc.). I recall, 
with  amusement, how the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English made that 
sentence  mean, "The prostitute is being punished by the pimp" ('cat', fig. 
prostitute; to  be 'on the mat', to be punished). Very incorrect.
>When Carnap speaks of the 
>"logic of the language of science" in 
>_The Logical Syntax of Language_, 
>the language of science must be understood as the 
>'physical  language.' If, as Aune points out, 
>Carnap agreed that there is no 
>useful a/s distinction in  natural language 
>we can say, at least, one of two things. 
>We can say the a/s  distinction has nothing 
>to do with language, and that it 
>concerns concepts, alone  (Kant) 
>we can say that the notion of meaning in a 
>canonical language is not the same as in natural language. 
>What then is the place of meaning in canonical 
>languages? It is tied to reference, ala, Tarski. 
>Once again the  language of science is tied to 
>truth in a formalized language, 
>and where that language is  science, 
>and "facts," are no longer at issue, the 
>position is untenable.  Analyticity becomes 
>a matter of decision in the construction 
>of a 'viable'  canonical language. 
If I may, I would bring the wider historical context. From my understanding  
of Carnap and his (literal) circle, it seems that Carnap is making a very 
strong  point (alla "methinks the lady doth protest too much") regarding 
_phsyicalism_.  From my experience, going through Ayer's excellent compilation on 
"Logical  Positivism" _phenomenalism_ seems to have been the received 'logical' 
reply to  what the Circle was looking for.
Some further historical notes may help. Of the 'logical postivists', the  
only one that crossed the pond (and reached Dover) was F. Weismann -- and he was  
recognised as the mentor of 'texture' in language, etc. 
On the other hand, there's America! I was pleased to read online of B.  
Aune's personal recollections of H. Feigl's association with the development of  
analytic philosophy. And then there was Carnap, and Reichenbach, and I guess a  
few more. 
In _Philosophical Analysis_, I think it is, Urmson suggests that, at least  
as far as Oxford was concerned, they (the philosophical intelligentsia) would  
not let a bunch of neo-scienticists (no offense!) to _destroy_ the Humanities  
like that! And right he was. Logical Positivism became a _fad_, and it was  
particularly embraced by philosophers like Isaiah Berlin (in his earliest paper 
 ever, now repr. in _Concepts and Categories_) or Grice (in his 'Personal  
Identity' or an early paper on 'Intention' that S. R. Chapman quotes  from*)  
(*This paper, Chapman notes, is so _early_ that it still bears the  address of 
Grice's _parents_, in Holborne, Warwickshire -- amazing that it's now  
deposited at UC/Berkeley!) 
And if Grice and others embraced 'phenomenalism' ('it seems to me as if the  
pillar box is red' +> "It's not!") it was only because it provided Oxonian  
philosophy with a root to their past (where Aristotelian scholasticism was the  
rule). It took Grice a couple of decades to _go back_ to Aristotle, or as he  
preferred, Ariskant. 
Bayne continues:
>Not unrelated here is that in a three-valued logic 
>applied to probabilities, where probability is 
>understood on the frequency theory, 
>these laws of logic simply  do not apply. 
>If the world is best described on such a frequency theory 
>then this is not a matter of decision or 'interest'. 
Exactly. Eddington's quote on the 'principle of indeterminacy' -- he coined  
the phrase apparently -- now in the OED shows his puzzlement here:
Eddington writes:
"It was Heisenberg again who set in motion the new development in the  summer 
of 1927, and the consequences were further elucidated by Bohr. The  outcome 
of it is a fundamental general principle which seems to rank in  importance 
with the principle of relativity. I shall here call it the ‘principle  of 
indeterminacy’. The gist of it can be stated as follows: a particle may have  
position or it may have velocity but it cannot in any exact sense have  both."
   (1928, p. 220). 
Recall too that the main problem for logical positivists was to get from  
'observational' to 'theoretical'. Eddington (and it's good to quote him here,  
since he _was_ in the lab!) has a couple of quotes here, too:
"It is never the task of the experimenter to 
devise the observational procedure which is the ultimate test of a  
scientific assertion." 
         Philosophy of the Physical  Sciences, 1939, p. 23
    -- meaning???
While there's no quote from Eddington on 'theoretical' -- but he must have  
known of Ramsey's Ramsifications? -- there's two more quotes on related 
concepts  to 'observation'. Under 'observer', a reference to
"the observer and his measuring-appliances"
     Space, Time & Gravitation (1920), p.  69 
and the adverb, 'observationally':
"The effect on the apparent angular motion..remains always on the verge of  
what is detectable observationally." 
Rotation of Gallaxy, 1930, p. 13. 
I remember when I was studying philosophy of science -- with G. Ranea --  
that I was embarrassed to ask if 'observation', for philosophers means just  
"see"? Not for Grice ('Remarks about the senses'). If not, the philosophical  
correct term would be _sensing_, rather than _observing_. The dichotomy is usual  
('theoretical' vs. 'observational') but it can be otiose. The best way I found 
 to understand it is via what Grice calls Ramsification in "Method in  
philosophical psychology". He is wanting to say that "... thinks ..." is _not_  
observational predicate; it is _theoretical_. And the only way he found at that  
stage (1975) to deal with this is in terms of 'sensory input' and 'behavioural  
output' of a Turing machine:
              input    -->       ((     black  box    ))     --> output
                                 "... thinks ..."
Bayne continues:
>Whether such 
>a logic is employed is determined in large measure  by 
>the way the world is, not "meaning."
>It would be interesting to  know what Quine/Carnap 
>would have regarded as a "philosophically useful distinction".
It would seem that 'philosophically', there is not, what Austin would refer  
to as 'the word wearing the trousers' (Grice's 'trouser-word') in any case! It 
 feels as if for Carnap and Quine, if a distinction is useful it's _not_  
'philosophical' (or at least 'not' metaphysical!).
>I think, for example, that Kant's treatment of 
>the synthetic a  priori marvelously relates 
>ethics and mathematics! But I don't 
>think either would be  inclined to consider this 
>application a "philosophically 
>useful distinction." A look at  their ethical theory may explain why.
Is theree one?!  (Just joking!)
The title of this post may be obscure but it's meant as a tribute to R. M.  
Hare's first subatomic particle of logic: the phrastic (he went on to identify  
the neustic, the tropic, and the clistic -- outdoing Grice in nice 
distinctions  there!). The phrastic is the _content_ simpliciter of what I say, provided 
I do  say something. "What is it about" wants to direct the attention not so 
much as  to what the phrastic _is_ but as to what it is about! (Grice, 
similarly, spends  quite a few pages in "Valedictory Essay" (or 'retrospective 
essay') in WOW on  what he calls 'dictiveness' versus 'formality' -- but he is more 
into the  distinction, "Hey, the big heads are boiling" versus "There is a 
meeting at the  moment at the Department of Philosophy -- they are deciding 
issues about the  curriculum": one is informal; the other, the secretary's formal 

J. L. Speranza
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